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Bee Keeping – Improvement in Food Resources

Last Updated : 29 Oct, 2022
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Food is necessarily the basic requirement for all living organisms for their existence. Earlier human beings started practicing poaching and collecting fruits, flowers, and roots of forest plants to fulfill their food requirements. Food is needed for growth, development, and body repair. It also protects the body from diseases and provides energy for performing all life functions. For example, food transports proteins, carbohydrates, fats (lipids), vitamins, minerals, and water to our bodies.

In the process of photosynthesis with the help of the energy of sunlight, green plants combine carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) to form carbohydrates (Food). Since ancient time, human beings have been practicing farming and rearing animals to fulfill their food requirements.

Plants are gifts of nature to humans and most animals in the form of food. Also, the different parts of plants, such as roots, stem, leaves, flowers and fruit, are eaten up by humans in the form of cereals, vegetables, spices, and fruits. Animals give milk, egg, meat, etc., which also fulfill our food requirements.

Bee Keeping

Honey Bee


Beekeeping or apiculture is the rearing, care, and management of honey bees for acquiring honey, wax, and other substances.

Honey is known to have medicinal value. It is useful in the treatment of many disarrays of humans related to digestion, dysentery, vomiting, and stomach or liver ailments. Honey is studied as a blood purifier, it heals against cough, cold sore throat, ulcers of the tongue, ulcers of the stomach and intestine, etc.  Honey is also useful in confectionery items such as pastries, cakes, etc. as a source of sugar. Beekeeping is a low-investment enterprise. Bees perform as pollinating agents.

Products Obtained from Apiculture

Apiculture or beekeeping give us many useful products such as honey, wax, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom.

  • Honey: It is a sweet, viscous edible fluid consisting of sugars, water or moisture, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, and pollen. Sugars present in honey comprise levulose, dextrose, sucrose, and dextrin. Honey’s minerals are calcium, iron, phosphate, and manganese. Vitamins present in honey are Pantothenic acid, Biotin, Pyridoxin, Choline, Ascorbic acid, Thiamine, Riboflavin, and Niacin. The color, flavor, and odor of honey usually depend on the flowers from which nectar is collected. 1 Kg of honey contains 3200 calories and is basically an energy-rich food.
  • Bee wax: Bee wax is utilized in the construction of the hive. This wax is used by human beings for numerous purposes such as manufacturing cosmetics, cold creams, shaving creams, polishes, candles, ointments, lipsticks, lubricants, modeling work, etc.
  • Propolis and balms are another gathering of bee from the plants. These substances are helpful in repairing and fastening of the comb.
  • Poison of bees is used in making certain Ayurvedic and Homeopathic medicines.

Honey Bee Varieties Used for Bee Keeping

In India, both indigenous and exotic varieties of honey bees are used for the commercial production of honey.

Indigenous Varieties of Honey Bees

  • Apis cerana indica F. (Indian bee).
  • Apis dorsata F. (Rock bee).
  • Apis florae F. (Little bee).

Exotic Varieties of Honey Bees

  • Apis mellifera (European or Italian bee);
  • Apis adamsoni (South African bee).

Italian bee is preferred because

  • It is gentle in nature.
  • Have a good honey collection capacity.
  • It has self-defense ability.
  • It has a prolific queen with less swarming.

Colony and Castes of Honey Bee

The bee is a social insect. The nest of the honey bee is termed the bee hive. Honey bees provide a good example of teamwork and division of labor. A colony of Italian bee usually has a single queen, 40,000 to 100, 000 workers, and a few hundred drones. A caste is defined as the collection of individuals within the colony that are morphologically different from individuals in other castes and perform specific tasks.

Based on the roles, there are following three kinds of castes in the colony of bees


  • The Queen is bigger than other castes of bees in the colony.
  • Bee’s legs are strong.
  • The queen plays a significant role in laying eggs. She lays up to 2000 eggs per day of each season.
  • The queen lays both fertilized (diploid, 2n) and unfertilized (haploid n) eggs.
  • Queen and workers emerge from the fertilized eggs, while drones come out from unfertilized eggs. Thus, queens are larger, they mate, lay eggs, eat proteinaceous food, and often do not forage or defend the colony.


  • The drone is a haploid, fertile male. Drones are larger than workers and are quite noisy.
  • They are unable to gather food but eat voraciously.
  • They are stingless, and their main role is to mate with the queen and remain in the colony to sleep and eat honey.
  • Their role is only in the breeding season, hence, they are made to leave the hive to save honey from them.


  • The worker is a diploid, sterile female (i.e., it can not reproduce).
  • The size of the worker is the smallest among the castes of bees.
  • Workers are the most active members of the colony; they have almost all responsibilities on their shoulders.
  • For various indoor and outdoor chores, the workers are provided with a variety of organs such as hypopharyngeal glands (for secretion of bee milk), wax glands (for building the cells of comb), pollen baskets on their hind legs (for the collection of pollen), sucking type mouth parts (for collecting the nectar), high level of secretion of invertase enzyme (in the honey sac for honey formation) and a sting at the tip of the abdomen (for the defense of the colony).
  • Workers live for 3 to 12 months. The function of workers changes with age. During the first half of their life, workers are engaged in indoor duties as scavengers, nurse bees, fanner bees, and guard bees. During the second half, they perform outside duties as scout bees and forager bees, the worker of a hive fall under three major age groups. These are:
    • Scavenger Bees: For the first three days, each worker bee acts as a scavenger. Cleaning the walls and floor of empty cells of the colony for reuse.
    • Nurse Bees: From the fourth day onwards, each worker bee feeds the entire brood, like a foster mother, with a mixture of honey and pollen. By the seventh day, it starts producing royal jelly, which is fed to the queen and future queen bees. Nurse bees also perform guard duties. They defend the colony from intruders. They kill the intruder by stinging, but also get killed with the loss of sting.
    • Foraging or field Bees: They explore new sources of nectar (as scout bees). Forager bees collect nectar, pollen, and propolis. Nectar is changed into honey in their crops.

Diseases and Enemies of Honey Bee

Honeybees are commonly infected by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. For example, the bacterium Bacillus apisceptious infects the blood of bee causing septicemia. Brood foul disease takes place by Schizomycetes (fungi). Nosema disease and amoeba disease are caused by protozoan pathogens Nosema apis and Vahlkampfia and acrine diseases are caused by a parasitic mite Acarapis woodi. Various birds such as king crows, blue tits, melifica, respectively. Common pests/enemies of bees are wasps, wax moths, and mites. Dysentry, paralysis fly-catchers, chaffinch, green blue eaters, sparrows, etc., use bee as their meal. Wasps are controlled manually (i.e., by destroying the wasp nests from the locality of apiary). The wax moth is controlled by exposing bees in bee hives to the sun, by increasing temperature. Bee-eater birds are scared away by some device.

Importance of Beekeeping

  • It helps in pollination. Honey bees are the best pollinating agents, which play a crucial role in inclining the yield of many crops.
  • It gives honey, which is the most beneficial food.
  • Honey bees provide bee wax which is used in several industries like cosmetic, polishing, and pharmaceutical industries.
  • Honey is regarded as a blood purifier, a cure for cough, cold sore throat, etc.

Working at Beehive

There are 10,000 to 60,000 bees in a colony. But all of them do not play a role in collecting nectar. The queen bee and female bees lay thousands of eggs. All larvae of bees are fed on special proteinaceous food, called royal jelly or bee milk, which is secreted by the hypopharyngeal glands of the young workers. And the duration that they fed will decide their role as a worker or queen. The drone bees are male, and they only take part in fertilizing the eggs laid by the queen, and the worker bees do the real work of collecting nectar.

FAQs on Bee Keeping

Question 1: What do you mean by beekeeping?


Beekeeping is known as the maintenance of bee colonies, commonly in man-made hives, by humans. It is also called apiculture.

Question 2: What are the desirable characteristics of bee varieties suitable for honey production?


  • They are sting less.
  • They stay for longer periods in a given bee hive.
  • They breed well.
  • They produce comparatively more honey and wax.

Question 3: What is pasturage and how it is related to honey production?


Pasturage is the availability of flowers for nectar and pollen collection for the honey bee. The quality and taste of the honey is determined by the kind and quantity of pasturage.

Question 4: What is swarming?


The process by which a queen leaves the old hive along with approximately one half of the workers in that colony and takes a new shelter is called swarming.

Question 5: How is wax moth controlled?


Wax moth is controlled by exposing bees in the hive to sun for increasing temperature.

Question 6: How does the honey bee help in cross-fertilization?


Beekeeping helps in cross-fertilization of flowers of crop plants, since pollen are transferred from one flower to another by bees while they are collecting the nectar.

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